An Oncomming Storm
[Chester] Ser Ralph Chester
Heir to Old Elm, Little Cousin, the Swimming Bear
Cousin Ralph Chester, oldest son of and heir to Lord Moribald Chester, has been called many things in his twenty one years, but quick or handsome have never been amongst them. Oft he has been named an oaf and since childhood his grandmother labelled him her “little Bear”, an appellation which still clings to him. And rightly so, for cousin Ralph has since childhood been large and muscular, built more like a woodsman than a noble. He is strong as an ox, with no equal amongst any of the knights on the Shield Isles. Because of his build he does not appear as much tall as simply large, his shoulders broad and his chest bulging with strength. His arms are disproportionately long, giving him a heavy, lumbering gait that further adds to the impression of weight and strength. Yet despite his size Ralph is surprisingly swift, an excellent runner and a capable swimmer whose precision and grace with a blade has laid many an opponent low. As anyone who have faced him can testify, whether in the heat of the melee or thundering past on horseback, he is a terrifying opponent whose mix of skill, physique and foolhardy aggression makes for a doughty fighter.
Old grandmother Chester is fond of reminding Ralph that he should thank the warrior for his strength, for the maiden surely cursed him at birth. Even as a child cousin Ralph was ugly, and years of squiring, interspaced with regular fights and beatings, has done nothing to improve his features. His is a long, rugged face, dominated by a small stout nose, two broad fleshy lips and a pair of eyes so deep a blue that they almost border on blackish. Few have much good to say of these traits, for his long face is heavy like a hunting dog, his squat nose malformed by repeated breaking and his lips fat and slightly pursed. His hair is fairly short, a confused tangle of chestnut-brown locks which grows down into a pair of sizable sideburns. It fails miserably at hiding his flabby ears which protrudes notably from his head and is about as ragged as the rest of him. His facial hair follow a heavy protruding chin formed from a heavy underhung jaw, kept short and trimmed around the mouth where it is complimented by a short mustache. The only charming feature of cousin Ralph would be his eyes, for though a little deep-set and fairly small their warm blue depth have a boyish charm to them. The glint in his eyes are matched by a tendency for broad smiles, a friendly mien and a mostly amiable demeanor, all things which perhaps goes some way to explain his not inconsiderable success with the opposite gender.
As far as apparel is concerned Ralph Chester is not a man of expensive tastes and the finer points of high fashion is entirely lost upon the heir to Old Elm, much to his grandmothers vexation. As many other men more at home in the saddle he prefer simple, sturdy pieces, but unlike most of them this is not simply due to a sense of comfort. Rather Ralph’s size and share brawn means that even tailored clothing are often ill-fitting, and the sight of his massive calf crammed into delicate satin tights excites little besides ridicule and laugher. Unsurprisingly therefore Ralph keeps to a rugged and plain attire, even on formal occasions. He prefers to wear heavy and loose tunics, often layered, in muted tones of greens, browns or simply of plain linen, and suitable riding pants in natural shades of light brown. Complimenting this painfully plain attire are a pair of tall leather boots and on grand occasions a suitable half-cloak usually in sharp red tones bordered by yellow and green.
When armed and armoured for war however the heir to Greenshield becomes an entirely different man, carrying his plate with the dignity with which other men wear silks. His most splendid piece has been wrought by the best workshop of Oldtown, glittering silvered steel inlaid with mother-of-pearl and gold patterned like the sea. His personal heraldry is laid out in the colours of house Chester, green on red, but with the central yellow field replaced by a grey one after his mother’s house. Even in his more practical war harness he is a fine sight or an entirely intimidating foe, depending on which side of his blade one stands on. This blade too is a fine weapon, a heavy hand-and-a-half sword with a slim cross-guard and a single large pearl worked into the pommel. Cousin Ralph affectionately call it “Mermaid’s Tear”, supposedly after the pearl, and he is rarely seen without it. Beyond his weapon and a sturdy knife Ralph rarely carry other accessories however, beyond what his tasks and circumstances would dictate. The only exception to this is a medallion in silver on a fairly ordinary iron chain, the shape of a flying dragon worked onto the obverse. Ralph is rarely seen without this memento, allegedly from his first melee, and he usually carries it inside his tunic.
As temperament goes Ralph is a rather simple man to be around, at least so it seems, and he professes no need for the finer things in life. A woman on his lap, a mug of ale in his hand and a tourney every now and then, perhaps a hunt, and Cousin Ralph seems very much content. That is not to say he is a man entirely without ambitions, merely that his ambitions are of a down to earth kind and that they relate to his skills at arms and little else. He has a naturally friendly disposition and an easy way about him, much like his aunt and grandmother. And he is a man to whom smiles comes easily and naturally, something with sooth his otherwise intimidating and bellicose features. Indeed cousin Ralph can be downright charming, given the right occasion, and coupled with an almost reckless confidence he has won many a tryst with the fairer sex. This confidence is for a large part due to Ralph’s laid back nature, reinforced by a security in his own worth and a docile temperament.
Though while slow to insult and anger however, Ralph does take his own skills quite seriously and he strongly dislikes being belittled. And while slow to it, once angered he best likened to his namesake the bear, all roaring and aggression. He is also at times dangerously blunt, disliking the twists and turns of courtly life, preferring instead concrete action and to the point retorts. His disinterest, even dislike, of the finer arts, be they the courtesies of court or the books of the maesters, is of course for a large part due to his own utter incompetence in these fields. For though he can be witty enough Ralph Chester is by no measure an intelligent man, and quite the contrary he struggles to grasp even the most basic concepts of the maester’s teaching whether mathematics or the structure of Myrish poetry. Even those fields of knowledge which did excite his interest, such as the histories of famed knights, he could hardly remember for much more than a day. Indeed his old mentor Lord Guthor Grimm has oft noted that the only reason he remembered his own name was because he shouted it at him at least three times a day. Yet though Ralph appears perfectly aware of his shortcomings they seem not to have dissuaded him, but rather he has taken to those things he excels at with all the more vigour and though often reminded of his inadequacies he for the most part merely grins and laughs it off.
It was a wind-tossed and cold day towards the end of the year 267 A.C. that Ralph Chester came into the world at Old Elm, firstborn son to Moribald Chester and his first wife Alaia Grimm. He was a robust and healthy child, much to his parents’ relief, and as the firstborn of Lord Harrybald Chester’s heir his arrival was much celebrated. His early years were spent in the security of Old Elm, exploring the windswept hills of Greenshield with its emerald fields and broad vistas of endless ocean, landscapes he came to love. He proved from an early age a spirited and vigorous boy, though also a reckless and thoughtless one who oft got himself into trouble whether in the kitchens or when attempting to swim to the most inaccessible of islets. His brawn and friendly mien won him leadership amongst his playmates, whether his younger brother or his many cousins, and these first years were bright and happy.
In 274 A.C. however Alaia Grimm was taken by an outbreak of the Red Plague, which also claimed her second son and many others of the people of the Shield Islands. Suddenly bereft of a mother the seven-year-old Ralph found his grief-stricken father growing distant and within two months he was sent away with his brother as wards with Lord Crakehall. The intention was to spare the boys in case of a second outbreak of the pox, but at least in the case of young Ralph it was a harrowing experience. Twice it was threatened that he would be sent away, for he proved a difficult and temperamental child, often caught fighting or bullying the other boys his age. The only person who had any sort of control over him during this time was his grandmother. A firm bond quickly grew between them, though it had in truth always been strong, and it was on Leonorra’s urging that the ten-year-old Ralph was sent as a page to his uncle ser Guthor Grimm.
Ser Guthor, whom Ralph would go on to serve as squire, proved a strict and demanding mentor with little patience for foolish tricks. Yet as Ralph would readily tell it was just what he needed, and under Guthor’s tutelage he would grow into a reliable young man and an excellent warrior. His perhaps most notable, and certainly most vigorously retold, tale from his time as a squire is of the melee at the Great Tourney of 281 A.C. There he first defeated ser Luthor Tyrell, cousin to the Lord of the Reach, before he fought the dauntless ser Oswell Whent for near on fifteen minutes without yielding. Though the Kingsguard eventually got the better of him his stubborn defence and courage won him a short audience with the Prince himself that day. And it was from him whom Ralph claims to have received his medallion. He would prove his skill again in the war which that memorable tourney sparked, fighting at both Stoney Sept and before the walls of Storms End, being knighted by then Lord Grimm for his bravery and selflessness during the latter.
The young Bywaters had known Ralph since childhood, and even after the war he had visited castle Waterdeep infrequently in the company of ser Aeron. Since the early part of 287 A.C. however they did not meet again before the memorable tournament at Highgarden, though Ralph played but a minor role there. They were reunited once more upon visiting Old Elm in the aftermath of the tournament of Bywater Green, and many antics were had amongst cousins. Ralph joined them again during their daring venture to Wolvesglen, having travelled with Aeron and held the boat for them. He is currently travelling towards the Crownlands in the company of Lord Bywater and ser Aeron.
Alain, has never been all that close to cousin Ralph, owing to their differences both of age and demeanour, but they get along well enough.
Braedon, has long had the friendship of cousin Ralph and with his latest spat of fine victories on the list he seems has managed to win his respect too.
Thorben, he hardly remembers the existence of.
Vermillion, he appears a little ambivalent towards. On the one hand he seems honour bound to disapprove of him, but seemingly also amused by the bastards antics and courage.